Has the Potential to Be Excellent
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
What if Elizabeth was already married to another man when Darcy first met her? What if Elizabeth’s husband was a wealthy, esteemed, yet terminally-ill duke? What if Darcy agreed to look after and marry the soon-to-be widow at the request of his good friend Rafael, the Duke of Deronshire?
What an extraordinarily unique variation of Pride and Prejudice! Instead of Elizabeth being below Darcy’s station, she is far above it. Instead of being a gentleman’s daughter with no dowry or connections, she is a wealthy widow with a multitude of admirers. One of which is the fastidious and haughty Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Although he falls in love with Elizabeth at first sight, Darcy cannot squelch his prejudiced assumption that Elizabeth is a manipulative and mercenary husband-hunter. Elizabeth, meanwhile, overhears Darcy’s detrimental comment about her not being “of his sphere,” and harbors a healthy resentment for that insufferable man. And when she learns that Darcy is prepared, willing, and extremely desirous of fulfilling the promise he made the late Duke, she let’s him know, “Hunsford-style,” just exactly what she thinks of him.
Once again Darcy and Elizabeth have to overcome pride, prejudice, and a profusion of obstacles in order to find their happiness. In this variation a vitriolic Caroline Bingley spreads venomous lies about Elizabeth that poison Darcy’s mind and ignite his jealous nature. Another antagonist Elizabeth and Darcy encounter is George Wickham, who, after having his elopement with Georgiana thwarted, greatly desires to exact his revenge!
I adored the premise of this variation! I enjoyed seeing Darcy jealous of another man and witnessing his insecurities and doubts. In addition, I took pleasure in seeing Elizabeth depicted as a devoted mother of two precious twin boys. Moreover, I appreciated the contrasts between the two relationships in Elizabeth’s life. Ms. Mushatt created a very tender and affectionate romance between Elizabeth and Rafael, while the romance she constructed between Elizabeth and Darcy was ardent and irrepressible.
Even though I found this story to be delightful and originative, there were some aspects that I felt could be improved. For instance, I would have enjoyed getting inside the characters’ heads a little more. I am curious to know: What did Darcy think after Elizabeth’s rejection? When and why did Elizabeth’s change of heart occur? What was going through her mind when she received those mysterious and threatening letters? Perhaps a first person narrative would have provided the answers to these questions.
Another aspect that I felt could have been constructed better was the romance between Darcy and Elizabeth. They seemed to spend a lot of time away from each other. How did their romance develop with so few interactions and encounters? With Darcy being immediately attracted to Elizabeth it felt like Darcy fell in “lust” with Elizabeth instead of “love.” Furthermore, I wasn’t too fond of the fact that Darcy and Elizabeth anticipated their wedding vows; I didn’t really see the reason for it.
Regardless of these quibbles, I think Mary Anne Mushatt’s Darcy and the Duchess has the potential to be an excellent Pride and Prejudice variation and one that many will delight in, it just needs some tweaking.